Doctor Who Retrospective 1.9/1.10 – THE EMPTY CHILD / THE DOCTOR DANCES (2005)

THE EMPTY CHILD / THE DOCTOR DANCES
2 episodes / 85m / 21 & 28 May 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗∗
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: James Hawes
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Kate Harvey (Nightclub Singer), Albert Valentine (The Child) Florence Hoath (Nancy), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd) Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness), Robert Hands (Algy), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Brandon Miller (Alf), Richard Wilson (Dr Constantine) Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child), Dian Perry (Computer Voice).
Plot: London, 1941, at the height of the Blitz. A mysterious cylinder is being guarded by the army, while homeless children, living on the bomb sites, are being terrorised by an unearthly child.
Comment: Atmospheric, funny, frightening and terrifically entertaining this remains one of the series’ all-time classics. The haunting “Are you my mummy?” plea of the gas-mask faced child is unforgettable. The story was shot entirely at night and set during the London Blitz. The visual effects work is impressive, notably during the scenes where Rose is hanging from a barrage balloon rope. Barrowman makes his debut as Captain Jack Harkness and immediately strikes up an excellent chemistry with the two leads. Eccleston was right when in the finale he claimed he was “on fire”. His performance here hits just the right mix of gravity and humour and his “Everybody lives” speech is the most uplifting moment in the series’ history. Full of witty one-liners, scary moments and one of the best cliffhanger resolutions, this is a story that lives long in the memory.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.8 – FATHER’S DAY (2005)

FATHER’S DAY
1 episode / 43m / 14 May 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Paul Cornell
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Robert Barton (Registrar), Julia Joyce (Young Rose), Christopher Llewellyn (Stuart), Frank Rozelaar-Green (Sonny), Natalie Jones (Sarah), Eirlys Bellin (Bev), Rhian James (Suzie), Casey Dyer (Young Mickey).
Plot: Rose travels back to 1987, to witness the day her father died. But when she interferes in the course of events, the monstrous Reapers are unleashed upon the world, and a wedding day turns into a massacre. Even the Doctor is powerless, as the human race is devoured.
Comment: Powerful and emotive episode that tugs at the heartstrings like no other story in the series to date. Cornell’s script may feel manipulative, but it plays nicely against the paradox of time travel. Ahearne also directs with energy and encourages exceptional performances from the main cast. By now Eccleston and Piper have established a strong enough rapport for the audience to believe Rose when she says the Doctor can never leave her. Dingwall is also excellent as Rose’s father, who’s bickering relationship with her mother bursts Rose’s idealistic fantasy of an idyllic marriage. The denouement is sympathetically played and is guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the house.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.7 – THE LONG GAME (2005)

THE LONG GAME
1 episode / 45m / 7 May 2005
Rating: ∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Brian Grant
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse), Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).
Plot: Adam discovers the wonders of travelling in the Tardis. In the far future, Satellite 5 broadcasts to the entire Earth Empire. But anyone promoted to Floor 500 is never seen again, and the Doctor suspects mankind is being manipulated. Does Adam have what it takes to become the Time Lord’s companion?
Comment: This episode is largely unremarkable and is the second in this series (after THE END OF THE WORLD) to use a space station setting. The premise doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny and the CGI monster of the week does little but show its fangs. Simon Pegg adds some wit to the proceedings as The Editor, but outside of the regulars the cast is largely unremarkable – save for Tamsin Greig’s poker-faced nurse. The direction by Grant is quite flat but there are a couple of memorable sequences – notably as Maxwell-Martin’s Suki explores Floor 500. A trend has been setting in through the series in that lead writer, Davies, has been responsible for the weaker scripts to date. Grand ideas lacking in logic and often held back by juvenile humour. Thankfully here that is kept in check and whilst the story fails to excite, it is not a disaster – merely bland. Also, thankfully, Langley was not kept on as a companion.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.6 – DALEK (2005)

DALEK
1 episode / 46m / 30 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗½
Writer: Robert Shearman
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), Anna-Louise Plowman (Diana), Bruno Langley (Adam), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (Di Maggio), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator), Nicolas Briggs (Dalek Voice).
Plot: Beneath the Salt Plains of Utah, the billionaire collector Henry Van Statten holds the last relic of an alien race. When the Doctor and Rose investigate, they discover that the Doctor’s oldest and most deadly enemy is about to break free. It’s a fight to the death, with Rose caught in the middle.
Comment: The series finally finds the right tone with this excellent episode. Eccleston gets his characterisation spot on as his hatred for the Daleks drives his anger at Van Statten’s keeping the creature alive in his underground museum. This gives Eccleston the opportunity to demonstrate his acting credentials and he delivers in spades. There is also some fun with corporate satire and the exhibits of Van Statten’s collection with various creatures from the Doctor’s past. Piper continues to impress as Rose who shows empathy for the tortured Dalek. Langley’s Adam, however, is not up to the task both as a character and in Langley’s insipid performance. This is the one down-side to what is otherwise the best episode in the revived series to date propelled by Shearman’s sharp script and Ahearne’s breathless direction.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.4 & 1.5 – ALIENS OF LONDON and WORLD WAR THREE (2005)

ALIENS OF LONDON / WORLD WAR THREE
2 episodes / 86m / 16 & 23 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Keith Boak
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Corey Doabe (Spray Painter), Ceris Jones (Policeman), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Lachelle Carl (Reporter), Fiesta Mei Ling (Ru), Basil Chung (Bau), Matt Baker (As Himself), Andrew Marr (As Himself), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Navin Chowdhry (Indra Ganesh), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Naoko Mori (Doctor Sato), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Jimmy Vee (Alien), Steven Speirs (Asst Commissioner Strickland), Elizabeth Fost, Paul Kasey, Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen)
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose home, but when a spaceship crash-lands in the Thames, London is closed off and the whole world goes on red alert. While the Doctor investigates the alien survivor, Rose discovers that her home is no longer a safe haven.
Comment: This is the renewed series’ first two-parter and whilst it suffers from inconsistency in tone and, in particular, the overuse of much juvenile humour, there are enough excellent scenes to display the potential of using the strong cast to its strengths. Eccleston again demonstrates a skill for the dramatic or reflective scenes, but a lack of subtlety with the comedic moments. The Slitheen lose any fear factor through the farting noises they emanate. Piper continues to impress as Rose and Coduri and Clarke return from the first episode, as Jackie and Mickey. The revelation of how long Rose had been gone adds some sobriety to the proceedings. There are some heavy-handed references to the Iraq War and international politics, but Wilton maintains dignity as MP Harriet Jones – destined for greater things. Disappointing for those who like their Who more serious and challenging, but fast-paced and entertaining for younger viewers. The tone would settle as the series progressed and as Eccleston grew into the part.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.3 – THE UNQUIET DEAD (2005)

THE UNQUIET DEAD
1 episode / 45m / 9 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Alan David (Gabriel Sneed), Huw Rhys (Redpath), Jennifer Hill (Mrs Peace), Eve Myles (Gwyneth), Simon Callow (Charles Dickens), Wayne Cater (Stage Manager), Meic Povey (Driver), Zoe Thorne (The Gelth).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose back through time to 1869. But in Victorian Cardiff, the dead are walking, and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local Undertaker. Can they halt the plans of the ethereal Gelth?The Unquiet Dead
Comment: The series kicks into gear with this episode, which delves into history and literature. The atmosphere is perfectly pitched by director Lyn with strong turns from his cast. Callow, a Dickens fan himself, is excellent as the renowned author as are David as the grim welsh undertaker and Myles as his housemaid, who has second sight. Eccleston and Piper have already built a strong rapport and there is plenty of opportunity for Eccleston’s Doctor to be commanding. The scene where the Doctor realises he has been tricked by the Gelth, who have used Myles as their passageway is wonderfully played by both actors. The only downside is some of the comedy early in the episode is again a little forced, but that doesn’t prevent this from being the best episode of the series to date by far.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.2 – THE END OF THE WORLD (2005)

THE END OF THE WORLD
1 episode / 45m / 2 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoë Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo), Sara Stewart (Computer Voice), Silas Carson (Alien Voices).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose on her first voyage through time, to the year Five Billion. The Sun is about to expand, and swallow the Earth. But amongst the alien races gathering to watch on Platform One, a murderer is at work. Who is controlling the mysterious and deadly Spiders?
The End of the WorldComment: This story moves into the far future and gets the chance to show off the excellent CGI visual effects from The Mill. Having introduced Rose in the first episode the focus here moves to the Doctor and we discover his race has been destroyed in a great war and he is the last Time Lord. We are introduced to an array of wealthy species who have paid to come to witness Earth’s destruction to an expanding sun from an orbiting space station. Cassandra (wonderfully voiced by Wanamaker) is the last human whose vanity has reduced to all vestiges of humanity being removes and what’s left is skin stretched tightly across a frame. The Face of Boe is also introduced and we will find out more about him/her as the series progresses. A special note for Lyn’s direction, which is a significant improvement over Boak’s for ROSE. Here, the humour is better managed and the tension builds nicely through the tightly edited finale as the station’s shields are sabotaged. Eccleston balances his performance between humour and gravitas, clumsy at the former but excelling at the latter and Piper continues to impress as Rose.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.1 – ROSE (2005)

2015 is the 10th anniversary of the return of one of British TV’s most historic shows – Doctor Who. Having also recently celebrated 50 years since its inception in 1963, the show continues to delight fans both old and new. To celebrate I have decided to revisit each episode from the re-launch masterminded by Russell T Davies, so here goes…

ROSE
1 episode / 45m / 26 March 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Keith Boak
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mark Benton (Clive), Elli Garnett (Caroline), Adam McCoy (Clive’s Son), Alan Ruscoe, Paul Casey, David Sant, Elizabeth Fost, Helen Otway (Autons), Nicholas Briggs (Nestene Voice).Rose
Plot: Rose Tyler is just an ordinary shop worker living an ordinary life in 21st century Britain. But that life is turned upside down when a strange man calling himself The Doctor drags her into an alien invasion attempt!
Comment: Introductory stories are always difficult to pull off due to the elements they are required to juggle – not least of which are the introduction of the main characters to the audience and the tone they set for the series. The stories are therefore often of secondary importance as a result and this is no exception with a lot to cram into its 45-minute running time. On the whole the episode works well in its purpose, although some of the comedy is played too broadly – notably Clarke’s Mickey and the CGI burping dustbin. The climax is well staged however as the Auton dummies spring to life in a busy shopping centre and wreak havoc as the Doctor tries to negotiate with the Nestene Consiousness. Eccleston is an atypical Doctor, simply costumed in a battered leather jacket, and merely hints here at the range he would display as the series progressed. Reference is made to his northern accent. Tyler is excellent as Rose as is Coduri as her mother, the flirty Jackie.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO Series 8 (2014)

DOCTOR WHO: SERIES 8 (2014, BBC, UK, 1 x 77 mins, 1 x 60 mins and 10 x 45 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: PG, Sci-Fi/Adventure) ∗∗∗∗
Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald).
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Peter Bennett; Music: Murray Gold.

Doctor_Who_Series_8_boxsetPeter Capaldi is the most alien Doctor since the series returned to our screens in 2005. He produces a well-judged performance keeping the balance between eccentric humour and gravitas, something that could not be said of many of Matt Smith’s later stories where the humour began to take over. Capaldi’s age also helps give the Doctor a more authoritative presence.

Jenna Coleman embraces the new dynamic and rises to the occasion to produce her best performances of her tenure. The addition of Samuel Anderson as her love interest, teacher and former soldier Danny Pink, ensures she remains a central focus throughout the series.

The plot umbrella involving the mysterious Missy (played with almost pantomime like relish by Michelle Gomez) led to a two-part finale that attempted to cram in too many emotional thumps. In general, however, the stories are of the most consistently high quality since Matt Smith’s debut season with the most successful of them going back to the basics of what makes this show the most enjoyable thing on television.

1  DEEP BREATH (77m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Dan Starkey (Strax), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Peter Ferdinando (Half-Face Man), Paul Hickey (Inspector Gregson), Tony Way (Alf), Maggie Service (Elsie), Mark Kempner (Cabbie), Brian Miller (Barney), Graham Duff (Waiter), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Peter Hannah (Policeman), Paul Kasey (Footman), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]), Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor).
      Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Steven Moffat.

When the Doctor arrives in Victorian London, he finds a dinosaur rampant in the Thames and a spate of deadly spontaneous combustions. Who is the new Doctor and will Clara’s friendship survive as they embark on a terrifying mission into the heart of an alien conspiracy? The Doctor has changed. It’s time you knew him. A lively, if familiar, adventure with large doses of Moffat’s trademark humorous dialogue and manic energy interspersed with occasional moments of atmosphere and tension.

2  INTO THE DALEK (45m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Zawe Ashton (Journey Blue), Michael Smiley (Colonel Morgan Blue), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Laura Dos Santos (Gretchen Allison Carlysle), Ben Crompton (Ross), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Michelle Morris (School Secretary), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek [Rusty]), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of Battered Dalek), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]).
      Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Phil Ford & Steven Moffat.

A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship, and only the Doctor can help them now… with the Doctor facing his greatest enemy, he needs Clara by his side. Confronted with a decision that could change the Daleks forever he is forced to examine his conscience. Will he find the answer to the question, am I a good man?  An interesting mix of elements from the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage and Series 1’s Dalek episode. This gives Capaldi more room to establish himself as possibly the best Doctor of the new run and certainly the most alien.

3  ROBOT OF SHERWOOD (47m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Tom Riley (Robin Hood [Robert, Earl of Loxley]), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Quayle), Sabrina Bartlett (Quayle’s Ward [Marian]), Ben Miller (The Sheriff of Nottingham), Ian Hallard (Alan-a-Dale), Trevor Cooper (Friar Tuck), Rusty Goffe (Little John), Joseph Kennedy (Will Scarlett), Adam Jones (Walter), David Benson (Herald), David Langham (Guard), Tim Baggaley (Knight), Richard Elfyn (Voice of the Knights).
      Director: Paul Murphy; Writer: Mark Gatiss.

In a sun-dappled Sherwood Forest, the Doctor discovers an evil plan from beyond the stars and strikes up an unlikely alliance with Robin Hood. With all of Nottingham at stake, the Doctor must decide who is real and who is fake. Can impossible heroes really exist? One of two lighter episodes (The Caretaker being the other) that harks back to the Matt Smith era. Capaldi handles the comedy well, but the whole thing feels a little too lightweight.

4  LISTEN (48m) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink / Orson Pink), Remi Gooding (Rupert Pink), Robert Goodman (Reg), Kiran Shah (Figure), John Hurt (The War Doctor).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Steven Moffat.

When ghosts of past and future crowd into their lives, the Doctor and Clara are thrown into an adventure that takes them to the very end of the universe. What happens when the Doctor is alone? And what scares the grand old man of Time and Space? Listen! The first classic of the Capaldi era is a chilling evocation of bedtime nightmares and proves Moffat still has it in him to produce the scares in a lower budget episode, even if he is once again mining the child psyche to produce them.

5  TIME HEIST (46m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Keeley Hawes (Ms Delphox), Jonathan Bailey (Psi), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Saibra), Mark Ebulue (Guard), Trevor Sellers (Mr Porrima), Junior Laniyan (Suited Customer), Ross Mullan (The Teller).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Steve Thompson & Steven Moffat.

The Doctor turns bank robber when he is given a task he cannot refuse – to steal from the most dangerous bank in the cosmos. With the help of a beautiful shape-shifter and cyber-augmented gamer, the Doctor and Clara must fight their way past deadly security and come face to face with the fearsome Teller: a creature of terrifying power that can detect guilt. Who’s version for a heist movie is well-played by a game cast, with The Teller a memorable monster creation. Whilst the story doesn’t really go anywhere it has its share of entertaining moments.

6  THE CARETAKER (46m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Edward Harrison (Adrian), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Andy Gillies (CSO Matthew), Nanya Campbell (Noah), Joshua Warner-Campbell (Yashe), Oliver Barry-Brook(Kelvin), Ramone Morgan(Tobias), Winston Ellis (Mr Woods), Gracy Goldman (Mrs Woods), Diana Katis (Mrs Christopholou), Jimmy Vee (Skovox Blitzer), Chris Addison (Seb), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]).
      Director: Paul Murphy; Writer: Gareth Roberts.

The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity – but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet. When terrifying events threaten Coal Hill School, the Doctor decides to go undercover. The better of the two comedic stories in the series. Capaldi really enjoys his undercover role and there is much fun to be had with Vee’s monster.

7  KILL THE MOON (47m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Ellis George (Courtney), Hermione Norris (Lundvik), Tony Osoba (Duke), Phil Nice (Henry), Christopher Dane (McKean).
      Director: Paul Wilmhurst; Writer: Peter Harness.

In the near future, the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a space shuttle making a suicide mission to the Moon. Crash-landing on the lunar surface, they find a mining base full of corpses, vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack, and a terrible dilemma. When Clara turns to the Doctor for help, she gets the shock of her life. Beautifully filmed episode that wracks up the tension through its claustrophobic setting. The spider creatures are truly terrifying, but the pay-off solution stretches credulity. However the coda between Capaldi and Coleman packs an emotional wallop.

8  MUMMY ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (47m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Frank Skinner (Perkins), David Bamber (Captain Quell), John Sessions (Gus), Daisy Beaumont (Maisie Pitt), Janet Henfrey (Mrs Pitt), Christopher Villiers (Professor Emil Moorhouse), Foxes (Singer), Jamie Hill (Foretold).
      Director: Paul Wilmhurst; Writer: Jamie Mathieson.

The Doctor and Clara are on the most beautiful train in history, speeding among the stars of the future – but they are unaware that a deadly creature is stalking the passengers. Once you see the horrifying Mummy you only have 66 seconds to live. No exceptions, no reprieve. As the Doctor races against the clock Clara sees him at his deadliest and most ruthless. Will he work out how to defeat the Mummy? Start the clock! Another race against the clock scenario (previously done in 42) but made with such style, grace and wit you can forgive its contrivances. The mummy creature is a brilliantly realised effect.

9  FLATLINE (44m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), John Cummins (Roscoe), Jessica Hayles (PC Forrest), Joivan Wade (Rigsy), Christopher Fairbank (Fenton), Matt Bardock (Al), Raj Bajaj (George), James Quinn (Bill), Michelle Gomez (Missy).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Jamie Mathieson.

Separated from the Doctor, Clara discovers a new menace from another dimension. But how do you hide when even the walls are no protection? With people to save and the Doctor trapped, Clara comes up against an enemy that exists beyond human perception. Brilliantly conceived and executed with some chilling moments and some fun with the Doctor trapped in a shrunken TARDIS. Again an example of the series working best when the budgets are limited.

10  IN THE FOREST OF THE NIGHT (46m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Abigail Eames (Maebh), Jaydon Harris-Wallace (Samson Jaydon Harris-Wallace), Ashley Foster (Bradley), Harley Bird (Ruby), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Siwan Morris (Maebh’s Mum), Harry Dickman (George), James Weber Brown (Minister), Michelle Asante (Neighbour), Curtis Flowers (Emergency Service Officer), Jenny Hill (Herself), Kate Tydman (Paris Reporter), Nana Amoo-Gottfried (Accra Reporter), William Wright-Neblett (Little Boy), Eloise Barnes (Annabel).
      Director: Sheree Folkson; Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce.

One morning, in every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to face the most surprising invasion yet. Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown overnight and taken back the Earth. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to discover that the final days of humanity have arrived. A story where its ambitions outweigh its resources. There are some good moments here too, despite the over-reaching concept and Capaldi has settled nicely into his stride.

11/12  DARK WATER / DEATH IN HEAVEN (104m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Lethbridge-Stewart), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Colonel Ahmed),  Chris Addison (Seb), Andrew Leung (Doctor Chang), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Antonio Bourouphael (Boy), Joan Blackham (Woman), Sheila Reid (Gran), Jeremiah Krage (Cyberman), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Shane Keogh-Grenade (Teenage Boy), Katie Bignell (Teenage Girl), James Pearse (Graham), Nick Frost (Santa Claus).
      Director: Rachel Talalay; Writer: Steven Moffat.

In the mysterious world of the Nethersphere, plans have been drawn up. Missy is about to come face to face with the Doctor, and an impossible choice is looming. “Death is not an end” promises the sinister organisation known only as 3W – but, as the Doctor and Clara discover, you might wish it was. The set up in Dark Water is intriguing and echoes Revelation of the Daleks’ black humour. The cliffhanger reveal is not a surprise, however, and the final episode is overblown, contrived and confusing. There are too many convenient plot resolutions for comfort here, but the final scene between Capaldi and Coleman is perfectly judged.

TV Review: DOCTOR WHO: Deep Breath (2014)

DOCTOR WHO: DEEP BREATH (2014, BBC, UK, 76 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: PG, Sci-Fi/Adventure) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Dan Starkey (Strax), Peter Ferdinando (Half-Face Man), Paul Hickey (Inspector Gregson), Tony Way (Alf), Maggie Service (Elsie), Brian Miller (Barney), Ellis George (Courtney).
      Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin; Producer: Nikki Wilson; Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Steven Moffat; Script Editor: Derek Ritchie; Director of Photography: Magni Agustsson; Music: Murray Gold; Film Editor: William Oswald; Production Designer: Michael Pickwoad; Costume Designer: Howard Burden; Special Effects: MILK, BBC Wales Visual Effects, Real SFX, Millennium FX.

DW8_Landscape_Aug24_sPeter Capaldi’s debut as the ever-popular Time Lord has been hotly anticipated since it was announced he would be taking over the role a year ago. Casting an older actor (Capaldi is 56) after the extremely popular Matt Smith, who was half Capaldi’s age was a bold move by Moffat, who has signalled a desire to introduce more gravity into the part and into the plots.

Deep Breath only hints at these changes, being a lively adventure with large doses of Moffat’s trademark humorous dialogue and manic energy interspersed with occasional moments of atmosphere and tension. There are nods to the classic series in a dinosaur roaming London (Invasion of the Dinosaurs) and residents of Victorian London being exploited for their flesh (The Talons of Weng-Chiang). Moffat also looks to his own earlier work – the clockwork men are taken from The Girl in the Fireplace and the Doctor’s instruction “don’t breathe” top avoid detection by the clockwork men is reminiscent of “don’t blink” from Blink.

The Vastra-Jenny-Strax trio is starting to wear a bit thin, however, recycling much of the banter from earlier appearances. It may have been felt that there was a need to surround the new Doctor with familiar elements in order to gain acceptance. This is nothing new – even Tom Baker had to go through a debut story obviously styled around his predecessor before very quickly finding his own feet one story later. It is to be hoped Moffat has remained true to his word in creating a more challenging and thoughtful Doctor. There is certainly a hint here that once Capaldi settles into the role we will have a strong Doctor and a more serious tone. The series needs to restore a sense of tension and jeopardy, so it was refreshing to see the seemingly infinitely adaptable sonic screwdriver used less frequently.

A good, but not great, start to a new era. Next week it’s Into the Dalek.